Tough Enough?

ToughEnoughHow tough is tough enough for a law enforcement officer?

Law enforcement is a tough profession. It will beat you up and tear you down, unless you are tough enough to endure all that this job has to throw at you.  So how do you prepare yourself for the job?

How tough do you have to be to work in law enforcement?

Your training for a policing job can be critical to your survival, and it’s not just the training you get in the police academy, it’s about training yourself every day to be sharp and ready for whatever the day will challenge you with. In order to be tough enough for a full career in law enforcement you need to strengthen and condition yourself every day in several ways.

When I say training I’m not just talking about physical fitness training, although that’s a big part of it, I believe that in order to be thoroughly trained for this job you have to strengthen and condition your “self” every day physically, mentally, emotionally as well as spiritually.

The problem with that is that none of us has ever been taught how to strengthen ourselves mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

Some of you might be asking why do I have to strengthen myself spiritually or emotionally for this job?

You will have to discover that answer to that question for yourself but consider the fact that about three times more officers take their own lives than are murdered in the line of duty. Physical fitness alone doesn’t strengthen you in the ways that are necessary to protect you from the demons that would lead you to want to take your own life. If you add in other toxic “hidden dangers” that might assault you in this line of work like… alcohol or drug abuse, depression, cancer, heart disease or marital troubles then you might not be training yourself for the real dangers at all.

Let’s do some threat assessment here. Take a piece of paper and pencil and write down all the threats that you might face in the remainder of your career. You don’t have to be too specific in identifying the type of person who will attack you but rather the type of situation that will attack you. For example you might respond to a structure fire, plane crash or other type of mass casualty event that presents you with burned and mangled victims and ask yourself: am I prepared to deal with that?

You might respond to a violent child sexual assault that has you interviewing and protecting a sweet and innocent child that might even remind you of your own child or one that you know.

You might be involved in a perfectly justifiable shooting where you take the life of another person and come out feeling fine with your decisions and actions, but sometimes the aftermath of those kinds of incidents will leave some of us with nightmares and flashbacks and other trauma related side-effects.

Ask yourself: “What really gets to to me?”

As you are making this list of treats make a note off to the side about what part of your being will be most affected by the trauma of the event.

In a two minute struggle with an armed teenager you might note that the effect will be mostly physical and work to strengthen and condition yourself physically for the possibility of that encounter.

If the threat you anticipate is one of major loss of life or gut-wrenching tragedy then you might note that the effect would be more emotional. Perhaps in your training regime you should add some emotional strengthening and conditioning exercises to build that part of your “self”.

Perhaps the threat will be a direct assault on your sense of honor or integrity. Maybe you will be confronted with a peer who is stealing or taking bribes or perhaps you yourself will find yourself in a situation where your whole value system comes into question. I don’t think even the most physically fit of us will have the right kind of strength to endure this attack.

What do you have to prepare yourself for in this job?

I believe that in order to fully prepare yourself for the rigors and hidden dangers of law enforcement you must strengthen and condition your “self” physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. To do this you must design a whole new fitness routine that trains you regularly in each of these four areas.

In preparation for the release of our new book: “Armor Your Self™: How to Survive a Career in Law Enforcement” we will be publishing a number of articles with excerpts from the book over the next several months. The book is being created as a guide for law enforcement professionals and their families to help them successfully navigate a career in law enforcement.

One of the concepts in the book suggest that all law enforcement professionals are also professional athletes and need to train and prepare themselves as such. A professional athlete uses a comprehensive training regime that they maintain daily for as long as they are working in their profession. Shouldn’t you believe the same about yourself?

In the book we suggest that your target should be “Tactical Resilience” which is defined as “a comprehensive concept of wellness training and systems layered over each other, and working in concert, to build a healthy and effective law enforcement professional and corresponding organization”.

The concept of tactical resilience is about creating effective wellness tactics that combine to develop efficient habits that in turn construct superior survival, and performance systems that institute a healthy, competent and professional law enforcement culture.

Here are a few suggestions from the exercises in our new book:

Physical Strengthening & Conditioning
Most of you probably do some kind of physical fitness workout everyday and that’s great, but you must remember that physical fitness is a combination of 1. Physical Training, 2. Getting Enough Sleep, and 3. Proper Diet including Proper Hydration. Did you know that “The Institute of Medicine determined that an adequate intake (AI) of water for men is roughly 3 liters (about 13 cups) of total beverages a day. The AI for women is 2.2 liters (about 9 cups) of total beverages a day. ” That may be a little more then the “8×8 Rule” (eight glasses of 8oz each) that you have heard about being a good amount. You can find a great article about that from the Mayo Clinic by CLICKING HERE.

Try This Simple Conditioning Activity:
Drink a full glass of water BEFORE each meal and then another with your meal. That alone will get you about half way to your goal. Carry a water bottle with you every day and keep track of how many times you have to fill it up.

If you want to take your physical fitness training to the next level consider participating in a Tough Mudder event. Learn more at their website by CLICKING HERE.

Also, if you want to add physical training to your agency or personal resume, consider training with the Cooper Institute. Learn more at their website by CLICKING HERE.

Mental Strengthening & Conditioning
Mental conditioning is really brain training to keep yourself sharp and to improve your abilities to think, react, investigate and solve problems.

Try This Simple Conditioning Activity:
The quickest and easiest way to do 10-15 minutes of Brain Training is to use Lumosity the online brain training and research project. Visit their website by CLICKING HERE.

Lumosity offers free brain training exercises but to truly enjoy a full range of their offerings you need to pay a membership fee. Because of our Partnership with Lumosity we can offer you a free 30 day trail. CLICK HERE to learn more. We are hoping that if we can get enough cops involved in this project we can offer you free or highly discounted memberships in the future.

There are also lots of books and online sites with puzzles and activities that challenge and condition your mental functioning. Try something every day to keep yourself sharp.

Emotional Strengthening & Conditioning

There are lots of emotions and most of them are very complex but when we talk about strengthening and conditioning your “self” emotionally we mean learning to control your emotions so that they do not interfere with you work. In law enforcement this usually has to do with some core emotions like fear, anger and courage. With those emotions our ability to control them usually falls into one of three categories.

Learning to control your “self’ to:
1. Psych Up
2. Calm Down
3. Control Unwanted Emotions

Most emotional training involves learning to control your breathing and then practicing various methods to speed up, or slow down, your physiological response to emotionally charged situations.
Frequently this has to do with stress management and your ability to quiet your mind and soothe your level of physiological arousal during and after a high stress incident.

Ask yourself this question: “How well can I quiet my mind?”

Try This Simple Conditioning Activity:
Sit in a quiet and comfortable place and see if you can slow your breathing and allow your mind to go completely quiet. Can you do it? Can you stay like that for 15 minutes?

If you can you are doing really well, and if not don’t be alarmed. Most humans live in a hectic and multi-tasking world where they have never learned to slow down. No one has every taught us how to take a few minutes and just relax. This is a powerful gift you can give yourself if you can find 15-20 minutes every day just to unwind.

If you would like to learn more check out our article entitled: “Train Like a U.S. Navy SEAL” by CLICKING HERE.

Also check out our article entitled: “A Stress Management Prescription for Law Enforcement” by CLICKING HERE.

Spiritual Strengthening & Conditioning

If you get hung up with the word “spirituality” try thinking of it as how you build and strengthen your Core Values and Integrity. Think of it as the place from which you draw your inner strength.

Spiritual training is hard for most of us because we were never trained how to do it, and it’s so far removed from our physical training that we don’t understand it. In order to strengthen and condition your “self” spiritually you must do some powerful self-examination. The best ways to do this are through contemplation, writing, discussion and exploration. These forms of training might seem different to the kinds of fitness conditioning you are used to but I encourage you to explore them.

Try This Simple Conditioning Activity:
To get you started here are some very powerful questions you might ask yourself. Answer them first in your mind, then write down your answers and finally, if you are feeling really adventuresome, talk to someone else about these subjects:

1. Do I believe in the concepts of good and evil?
2. Why did I become a law enforcement officer?
3. How do I strengthen my personal sense of honor?
4. Where does my inner strength come from?
5. How do I build integrity?
6. How do I add real joy into my life?
7. What do I believe in?
8. What are my morals?
9. What are my most important values?
10. What are my beliefs about spirituality?

Conditioning your “self” in these areas means doing the work to actually explore the concepts and determine your core beliefs and firm attitudes about these issues. When you are not clear about your core values and beliefs then you risk having them attacked and eroded by the toxicity that comes with this job. It’s one thing to think about these concepts but in order to strengthen yourself you need to actually put some work into it by writing out your ideas and then examining them from every angle. This probably means writing down your thoughts and then leaving them for a couple of days and then revisiting them again to see if your opinions and perspective has changed. You might even consider discussing them with others in a safe environment. Roll call is probably not the place to start a random discussion about spirituality but it might be a good place to discuss the meaning of the oath you took when you were hired as a cop or of the code of ethics you have hanging on a wall somewhere in your building.

You might want to create a written or computer journal where you write out your thoughts about major issues that impact your values, ethics and sense of honor and integrity.

The Challenge:

My Armor Your Self™ Challenge to you is to see if you can spend as little as 10 minutes a day strengthening your “self” in all four of these categories: physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

CLICK HERE to download our Armor Your Self™ weekly planning sheet.

Bonus Exercise:
Learn to strengthen your WillPower

The one factor that overlaps all four of these training areas, but doesn’t fit in any one single category, is the concept of willpower. Call it self-control, self-discipline, strength of will or mental toughness but willpower is a strength that all law enforcement professionals should have.

How can you build your WillPower?
Most things about willpower training center around “Do’s” and “Do Not’s”. Strengthening your willpower is all about forcing yourself to DO the things you don’t want to do, and having the self control NOT TO DO the things you know you shouldn’t. So why not test yourself with these simple experiments:

Do Not:
Drink any alcohol for 1 week
Watch TV for 3 weeks
Eat sweets or dessert for 4 weeks

Your physical fitness workout every day for 30 days
Your Armor Your Self™ (10 minute x 4) workout every day for 30 days

What challenges can you design for yourself that will test and help boost your willpower?

Good luck and we will discuss more on these concepts in later articles.

CopsAlive is written to prompt discussions within our profession about the issues of law enforcement career survival. We invite you to share your opinions, ask questions and suggest topics for us in the Comment Box that is at the bottom of this article.

At The Law Enforcement Survival Institute (LESI) we train law enforcement officers to cope with stress and manage all the toxic effects and hidden dangers of a career in law enforcement.

Our “Armor Your Self™: How to Survive a Career in Law Enforcement” on-site training program is an eight hour, hands-on, “How to” seminar that helps police officers and other law enforcement professionals armor themselves physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually to survive their careers in police work. To learn more CLICK HERE

The concept of “True Blue Valor™” is where one law enforcement officer has to muster the courage to confront a peer who is slipping both professionally and personally and endangering themselves, their peers and the public. It takes a system of organizational support and professional leadership to support and foster the concept of courage and intervention. We will train your trainers to deliver this program to your agency.
To learn more CLICK HERE

Our “Armor Your Agency™: How to Create a Healthy and Supportive Law Enforcement Agency” Program includes critical strategies that you will need to build a system of support and encouragement for a healthy and productive agency. To learn more CLICK HERE

CLICK HERE to read more about The Law Enforcement Survival Institute.

CLICK HERE if you would like to contact us to learn more about training for your organization.

I’m John Marx, Founder of The Law Enforcement Survival Institute and the Editor of Connect with me on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. was founded to provide information and strategies to help police officers successfully survive their careers. We help law enforcement officers and their agencies prepare for the risks that threaten their existence. Thank you for reading!

About Editor

John Marx was a Police Officer for twenty-three years and served as a Hostage Negotiator for nineteen of those years. He worked as a patrol officer, media liaison officer, crime prevention officer and burglary detective. Also during his career he served as administrator of his city's Community Oriented Governance initiative through the police department's Community Policing project. Today John combines his skills to consult with businesses about improving both their security and their customer service programs. John retired from law enforcement in 2002. When one of his friends, also a former police officer, committed suicide at age 38, John was devastated and began researching the problems that stress creates for police officers. He decided he needed to do something to help change those problems and he wanted to give something back to the profession that gave him so much. He started a project that has evolved into Put simply, the mission of CopsAlive is to save the lives of those who save lives! gathers information, strategies and tools to help law enforcement professionals plan for happy, healthy and successful careers, relationships and lives.
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  1. Hi Allyse,
    Thanks for your comments! I checked out your blog, keep up the good work.
    Good luck to you in your future career!

  2. As a young adult looking forward to starting her law enforcement career, this post was very helpful. 🙂 I may be a 17 year old blonde chick, but I’m fierce and responsible and should be taken seriously. I really enjoy when you post entries like this so I can keep learning.
    -Allyse @

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